And the Stars Aligned: IronMan Texas

IronMan Texas 2011 was one of the best days of my life. There was so much support from the crowd for our end ever, it was magical. Michelle and Sonja were fantastic guides from beginning to end. Michelle guided on the swim and the bike, and Sonja on the run. So I said my goal was 12, but the truth of it is I was hoping for anything between 12 and 13. I thought if I publically committed to 12 that I’d push to be on the side of 12. I never actually thought 12 was possible. Needless to say I’m thrilled with the time of 11:50. That puts me 4 hours faster than the previous fastest blind female, and 55 minutes faster than the fastest blind male.

The evening before I was all nerves. I tossed and turned like mad. I was kidding in my head that I should wake up Sonja and Michelle, part of guiding is laying on top of the athlete before until they sleep….. I knew they wouldn’t buy that.

I must have only slept maybe 2 hours, maybe 3 at most. Sonja and Michelle are both coaches, they explained to me next day that the most important night of sleep is 2 days before the race (Thank God(. Race morning was seamless. We left at 4:45 on the dot. Checked on the bike, all was well. The biggest crisis was finding safety pin for my number.

They had the PC (Physically challenged) athletes start with the pros. The idea being they get more time and more space. Our fear was that this meant we would get toppled. All things considered the swim went well. The issue with the swim is the sensory deprivation and the challenge in communication. The tether can only communicate so much. I kept getting my right arm stuck in the tether which shortened my right stroke to about half. All and all the swim went well. My goal was 90 mints, we did 100 minutes. We’ll call that a success. There were a few bottle necks and a few occasions where I kept swimming into Michelle…. The swim is so messy. I was very proud of the fact that I didn’t have any hint of panic attack in the water. Sometime on these long races those personal victories get lost. That is my first open water swim ever with no panic attack. I am almost as proud of that alone as iam proud of the race.

Michel and I ran out of the water, Sonja met us in the transition tent, we were on the bike in under 4 minutes. We killed that bike course. I was a bit concerned that the swim was 10 minutes slower than expected, I was intent on making up the time on the bike. I remembered everything coach Aaron had taught me about keeping my weight over my legs, focusing on my position, and being consistent with my pedal stroke. Michelle kept having to remind me not to push too hard on the bike, spare your legs for the run. We finished in 5:45, our goal had been under 6:30. We were flying….Our average speed was 20 mph for 112 miles.

The signs on the bike were pretty funny. One said “Welcome to IronMan; you are now broke”, and “IronMom because having babies wasn’t hard enough”, “That bike makes your but look fast” there were others but I can’t remember.

I was ecstatic when we rolled in from the bike. It was 7:30 and we were feeling great. We made it through transition in roughly 4 min. At this point Michelle handed the gauntlet of guiding over to Sonja.

I proclaimed loudly that I was feeling very intense and that we will not talk about anything that isn’t mile markers or pace. I felt bad about this later. I pretty much tied myself to Sonja and immediately yelled at her. Not my shining moment, that’s for sure. I just really had to focus. So apparently the entire time people where pointing and cheering for s, but I didn’t know because I had been very clear about not talking. I only found out they were cheering for us at mile 22 or so.

We made the first mile in roughly 7:10, I slowed quickly after that. My stomach was blowing up. I have so many issues with my stomach. it was so hot, 90 degrees or so and humid. We pushed through averaging miles between 9 and 10 minute miles. At mile 5 I had to take off my socks at an aid station because I was too hot. I have crazy nasty blisters as a result. I had to start getting sprayed with water and using the cold sponged which I usually hate, I had tried to prep for the temperature but it was a different story to do a 140 miles race. We pushed through slow and steady. At mile 10 of the run I ran into Charlie. Charlie was just the motivation I needed. He said something that on first pass sounded kind of generic, something like “give it all you’ve got”, or something to that effect. About a half mile later I thought about it more. The word alone probably wouldn’t have been enough but given that Charlie is someone I find inspirational it meant something to me. Besides Charlie gives ot his fullest capacity all of the time, every day. Charlie was exactly what I needed. Sonja and I dropped the hammer. We started picking it up. 9:30miles, to 8:45 mile to 8:00 min miles and ending on 7:30 miles.

After running into Charlie I tried to ignore the heat, ignore my revolting stomach, and just give the run all I had to give. I tried to remind myself that we were so close. This was an opportunity for me to make coach Aaron proud, make my sister proud, to make Charlie proud ….. and on and on. I really just tried to remind myself everyone who really was behind me.

At around mile 22 the crowd were cheering like crazy, I didn’t know what they were cheering for specifically. After a few minutes I threw my arm up, the crowd erupted, they were cheering for me….. ! I couldn’t believe it, I had an ear to ear smile. We pushed straight through. We were passing people like crazy. On three different occasion we passed dudes who notably, and loudly started crying as they were passed by a blind lady, one tried to run with us for a second but couldn’t keep our pace.

I was already on cloud nine and I didn’t even know how close to our goal we were. We met michelle at 26 miles, she sprinted to the end with us. Our final time was 11:50. The crowd exploded!!!! The volume must have tripled when we crossed the finished line. It was one of the most moving and magical moments of my life.

Christine and her family where there, as well as Griffon, Geoff and their lovely daughter. It was a dream come true.

Special Thanks to Sonja and Michele of course as they are the two who made this possible. Also special thanks to Christine and Griffon for being so supportive, I meant so much to me to have both of you and your families there. Special thanks to Charlie for being such an incredible example for all of us to liv up to. Special Thanks to Matt miller for all your help coordinating, logistics, and support leading upt to and throughout the race. Special thanks to Brad for volunteering at the aid station, it did my heart good to hear some friendly voices out there on the course. Special thanks to all my friends and family who texted, called, and messaged. This absolutely was one of the most exciting accomplishments of my life. I feel like I am still just waiting to wake up from a day dream, I can’t believe that really just happened.

Believe me that I’m now wrecked. I have bloody feet, chafing around where my jersey as, and my legs have no strengths what so ever. I am also having frantic food fantasies; I woke up with a jolt out of bed at 4 am because I wanted tater tots SO badly. I believe I’ve taken in about as many calories today as I usually would in a week. I am so excited and handful to have a fast ironman under my belt.

I’ll give it till the end of the week, and then we start training for the Olympic distance national championship at NYC tri this august!


3 thoughts on “And the Stars Aligned: IronMan Texas

  1. I’m sure that this goes for both Caitlin and me: you don’t have to do anything to make us proud. If you’d ridden your bike into the ocean, or accidentially arrived in Texas a week late, or whatever, we’d still have been proud.

    That said, you totally kicked ass! I knew you’d do well, but I did not expect you to kick quite that much ass. You made more than one grown man cry. If that’s not something to be proud of, I’m not sure what is.

    I love you! And just know I’m having tater tot envy… (they don’t have ’em in Spain.)

  2. You don’t know me but I wanted to let you know how inspired I was by you in Texas. I “hit the wall” at the start of my third lap of the marathon. I was overheating, and just couldn’t convince my legs to start running again. I walked close to a full mile feeling sorry for myself.

    You and your guide came trotting on by me and that was all the motivation I needed to get started again. I trailed you two for a couple miles, amazed as you weaved in and out of traffic. I thought of all the work I’ve put in to prepare, then I tried to imagine how I would have done that without my vision.

    Congrats to you. You have accomplished something amazing for yourself, and inspired more people than you probably know at the same time.


  3. you wrote you were happy to have a fast ironman under your belt. Just happy?
    You have the fastest ironman under your belt in your category! This is like nothing ever seen before: smashing a record by 4 hours! Let me rephrase that: beating a record by about 25%!!!
    You are truly amazing! A real inspiration!

    PS : I’ll keep checking your blog to see if you ever race in good ol’Europe, if you do I’d like to fill out an application to help guide you ;o)

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